Theatre review: The Pajama Game, Minerva Theatre, Chichester

3.00

 

The Chichester season (reduced in scale this year as the main theatre is renovated and the big shows are housed in a tent) kicks off in the Minerva Studio now with Richard Eyre's irrepressibly zestful revival of The Pajama Game, the 1954 Broadway hit (with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross) that became a Doris Day film three years later.

Jean-Luc Godard claimed that the piece was “the first Left-wing operetta”. Well, not quite. As this cannily judged, high-spirited production reminds us, the show owes rather more to Guys and Dolls than it does to Brecht or to Marc Blitzstein's radical pro-union musical of the Depression era, The Cradle Will Rock. 

At the Sleep-Tite Pajama Factory in Iowa, a strike is imminent as the workers agitate for a seven-and-half cents per hour pay rise. But it's a case of love across the picket line when Sid Sorokin, the ambitious new Superintendent (Hadley Fraser in attractively strong, ardent/abrasive voice) falls for Joanna Riding's bewitchingly bolshie-yet-sensitive Babe Williams, head of the Union's Grievance Committee. 

In its cheerfully tongue-in-cheek and unapologetic way, the show is considerably more interested in how the central couple negotiate their way round the romantic obstacles than it is in the industrial dispute. For all his kneejerk, snarling abuse of Communists, Colin Stinton's Boss is almost endearingly inept; the ostensibly oppressed workers seem more exuberant than I can ever remember being (Stephen Mear's dynamic choreography makes their whooping “Once-A-Year-Day” union picnic an elating rush of glee) and some of best numbers relate to a jealousy sub-plot. Claire Machin tips the wink delectably as Mabel, the well-groomed, comfortably proportioned secretary, who in the great Frank Loesser-like duet “I'll Never Be Jealous Again, plays mischievous tricks with the Green Eyed Monster that's assailing Peter Polycarpou's twitchily driven Time and Motion man.

Is The Pajama Game in the top ten great American musicals, as Eyre contends? To my mind, the show bears the same relation to that status as a bag of plums does to a great fruit cake. But then again, what a succession of highlights it offers. A tinselly camp “Hernando's Hideaway”, a drolly sizzling “Steam Heat”, Hadley Fraser singing to his own dictaphone-recorded voice in the lovely “Hey There (You With The Stars in Your Eyes” are among the pleasures of a production that feels a bit hyperactive for the intimate space at the moment and should be even more pleasurable when it has had time to calm down a bit. 

To June 8; 01243 781312

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea